Short Essay on Christology – Brandon Frank

In Book I Locke says little about who holds the doctrine of innateprinciples that he is attacking. For this reason he has sometimes beenaccused of attacking straw men. John Yolton has persuasively argued(Yolton, 1956) that the view that innate ideas and principles werenecessary for the stability of religion, morality and natural law waswidespread in England in the seventeenth century, and that inattacking both the naive and the dispositional account of innate ideasand innate principles, Locke is attacking positions which were widelyheld and continued to be held after the publication of theEssay. Thus, the charge that Locke’s account of innateprinciples is made of straw, is not a just criticism. But there arealso some important connections with particular philosophers andschools that are worth noting and some points about innate ideas andinquiry.

Early history of Christianity: 170 to 590 CE

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Essay on Early Christianity | Caritas, Veritas, et Hilaritas

The new science of mathematical probability had come into being on thecontinent just around the time that Locke was writing theEssay. His account of probability, however, shows little orno awareness of mathematical probability. Rather it reflects an oldertradition that treated testimony as probable reasoning. Given thatLocke’s aim, above all, is to discuss what degree of assent we shouldgive to various religious propositions, the older conception ofprobability very likely serves his purposes best. Thus, when Lockecomes to describe the grounds for probability he cites the conformityof the proposition to our knowledge, observation and experience, andthe testimony of others who are reporting their observation andexperience. Concerning the latter we must consider the number ofwitnesses, their integrity, their skill in observation, countertestimony and so on. In judging rationally how much to assent to aprobable proposition, these are the relevant considerations that themind should review. We should, Locke also suggests, be tolerant ofdiffering opinions as we have more reason to retain the opinions wehave than to give them up to strangers or adversaries who may wellhave some interest in our doing so.

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Locke makes this distinction in Book II Chapter 8 of the Essay andusing Boyle’s terminology calls the two different classes ofproperties the primary and secondary qualities of an object. Thisdistinction is made by both of the main branches of the mechanicalphilosophy of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Both theCartesian plenum theorists, who held that the world was full ofinfinitely divisible matter and that there was no void space, and theatomists such as Gassendi, who held that there were indivisible atomsand void space in which the atoms move, made the distinction betweenthese two classes of properties. Still, the differences between thesetwo branches of the mechanical philosophy affect their account ofprimary qualities. In the Chapter on Solidity Locke rejects theCartesian definition of body as simply extended and argues that bodiesare both extended and impenetrable or solid. The inclusion of solidityin Locke’s account of bodies and of primary qualities distinguishesthem from the void space in which they move.

42Council of Nicea, canon 4.
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John Locke (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)